Tuesday, February 17, 2009



16th February, 2009

By Charles Ariko

Two senior editors of Red Pepper are wanted in court to answer charges of defaming Libyan leader Col. Muamar Gadaffi over the paper’s report that he has a love affair with Toro Queen Mother Best Kemigisa.

Buganda Road Chief Magistrate Vincent Mugabo has ordered editor-in-chief Richard Tumusiime and senior editor Francis Mutazindwa to stand in the dock tomorrow.

Tumusiime yesterday said they would comply with the order. “We are law-abiding citizens,” he said. “We will attend court as required.”

Tumusiime and Mutazindwa are accused of defaming a foreign dignitary with intent to disturb peace and friendship between Uganda and Libya.

Muwema, Mugerwa Advocates and Solicitors filed the case on behalf of Abdala Bujeldain, the secretary (ambassador) of the Libyan Arab Peoples Bureau in Kampala.

If convicted, the journalists will get two years in jail.

The offence has rarely been invoked except in the late 1980s when three journalists asked the then Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, an “embarrassing question” at a State House press conference. In the current case, the court said Tumusiime and Mutazindwa published a story titled, Gadaffi, Toro Queen in love, on February 5.

The court argues that the story was untruthful and degraded, reviled and exposed to contempt, the leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist Peoples’ Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. It said the intention of the paper was to disturb peace and friendship between Uganda and Libya.

The accused, the court added, committed similar offences on different dates. The stories were entitled “Toro Queen sex secrets revealed, Gadaffi asks Toro Queen for a baby boy, Gadaffi, Toro Queen first kiss, Gadaffi, Museveni clash over Toro Queen and Gadaffi buys Toro Queen a plane.

The court said a prima facie offence had been disclosed and the complaint was neither frivolous nor vexatious.

Gadaffi, through his Kampala lawyers, has also threatened to sue Red Pepper for $1b (about sh195b) in damages over the same stories.

In an affidavit, Libyan ambassador Abdala Bujeldain said the newspaper had launched an almost daily campaign to defame Gadaffi, which, if not halted, was likely to continue.